Court of Appeals of Alaska (2022)
In McGraw v. State, 512 P.3d 994 (Alaska Ct. App. 2022), the court of appeals held that when analyzing the validity of search under the probation search exception, a court may only consider information known to the probation officer at the time he or she directed the search. (Id. at 996–97). McGraw was on probation for felony drug charges when his probation officer, acting on an unsubstantiated tip, directed state troopers to conduct a search of his residence. (Id. at 995). The search was directed pursuant to a probation condition that allowed for warrantless searches of McGraw’s person or property upon his probation officer’s reasonable suspicion of his possession, use, or distribution of marijuana or alcohol. (Id.). When troopers arrived at McGraw’s home, they claimed that McGraw was in an agitated state, leading to a reasonable suspicion he was under the influence of stimulants. (Id.). Upon a search of his property, law enforcement discovered drug paraphernalia and methamphetamine. (Id.). The superior court denied a motion to suppress this evidence and McGraw was convicted of second-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance. (Id. at 995–96). On appeal, McGraw claimed that his probation officer did not have reasonable suspicion at the time she directed law enforcement to search McGraw’s property, and that the search was therefore unconstitutional under the federal and state constitutions. (Id. at 996). The court of appeals reversed the superior court, holding that the lower court erred in its evaluation of reasonable suspicion when it considered the troopers’ independent observations. (Id.). The court found that the tip was insufficient basis for the probation officer to form reasonable suspicion, and that later observations by the troopers could not rehabilitate the invalid search order. (Id. at 997). Reversing the lower court’s decision, the court of appeals held that when considering reasonable suspicion under the probation search exception, a court may not consider information unknown to the probation officer at the time the search was directed. (Id. at 996–97).